Nature Shock: Getting Lost in America

Jon T. Coleman. Yale Univ., $30 (360p) ISBN 978-0-300-22714-7
In this contemplative and erudite study, University of Notre Dame professor Coleman (Vicious: Wolves and Men in America) discusses how different groups of people have related to, and lost their way in, the United States’ vast tracts of wilderness. He begins by tracing Spanish conquistador Hernando de Soto’s trek through what is now the American South in the 16th century, continually attacking indigenous people while getting progressively more lost, before finally dying of fever. Coleman then moves into the Pilgrim era, documenting the English settlers’ attempts to carve out a society while likewise getting constantly lost in the woods, and usually rescued by the Algonquians. One of the most engaging sections focuses on Maroons—escaped slaves who, while hiding from their captors, created fully functioning communities in North Carolina and Virginia swampland. Moving into the 20th century, Coleman discusses author Edward Abbey’s work as a park ranger rescuing lost hikers at Arches National Monument in Moab, Utah, while, ironically, urging readers to “get lost, sunburnt, stranded, drowned, eaten by bears, [and] buried under avalanches.” Today, he suggests, Americans would do well to remember, for all their sophisticated digital navigational devices, the helplessness that people once felt in the woods. Coleman’s work will fascinate readers with its look at the place of wilderness in American history.(Aug.)
Reviewed on : 06/08/2020
Release date: 08/01/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
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